Home » Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Bookstores » ‘The Content Trap’ Is the Must-Read Book of the Year

‘The Content Trap’ Is the Must-Read Book of the Year

18 December 2016

From Digital Book World:

A recent trip to a local brick-and-mortar bookstore helped me realize that even the best algorithms and email campaigns can’t replace in-person product discovery. On this trip, I noticed a book called The Content Trap sitting face-out on the shelf and couldn’t resist picking it up.

Great title. Intriguing outline. Normally I’d make a note to grab the ebook sample and consider buying it later. What I saw during my in-store flip test, however, convinced me I shouldn’t wait. So I made the unusual decision (for me) to buy the print copy, not the ebook.

As I walked out of the store, it dawned on me: despite all the daily book recommendation emails I get from Amazon and elsewhere, this one never hit my radar until I walked through that store. Actually, maybe one of those emails did mention it, but I never noticed because I receive so many book promo messages that they’ve turned into nothing more than inbox white noise. This seems to indicate the email marketing model could benefit dramatically from an overhaul.

. . . .

Here are a few of the more fascinating segments I’ve read so far:

The language for success in media, as in technology, is less and less about content and more and more about connections.

It’s striking how many digital media managers still think in terms of product appeal to individual customers rather than in terms of managing and exploiting connections. This is even more surprising in view of the fact that media consumption has always been inherently social.

Through its Marketplace, Amazon had shifted strategy from selling products to owning a platform. A similar “content versus platform” choice confronts many organizations today.

Superior products are great, but strategies that exploit connections are better.

Can we help readers to help each other? [That last question helped one publisher shift] from being important to being relevant, as one editor put it.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG says there is definitely a lot of bad email marketing, but there are also a lot of readers who no longer think about going to physical bookstores to find books.

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Bookstores

22 Comments to “‘The Content Trap’ Is the Must-Read Book of the Year”

  1. During my most recent (a couple years ago) visit to a physical bookstore, I spotted a novel (yes, I do judge a book by its cover) and I later downloaded it from Amazon. I don’t think that’s what Books A Million had in mind, but I wasn’t in the store because I wanted something. My daughter dragged me there. The novel was a good fit for me and I never would have found it relying on Amazon’s recommendations. After years of poor matchmaking on their part, I don’t even open their emails if I’m in the midst of reading a book and already have one in the que waiting to be read. But when I do read the recommendations, I see that Amazon often relies on books I’ve clicked on in the past to come up with similar books in genre or theme. That’s a poor measure because most of the books I click on are ones I ultimately decided against buying after reading the description and looking at the review stars. I don’t read the reviews themselves because I’ve found they often reveal spoilers.

    I haven’t purchased a paper book in many years — more than a decade — except as gifts for others who aren’t as married to a Kindle as I am.

    • You can edit your Amazon browsing history so that the books you don’t want affecting your recommendations are removed; then the recommendation algorithm does a much better job.

      They can’t tell why you bought a book, but allow you to tell them not to use it in their recommendations.

      • I didn’t know that option is still available, but I wouldn’t use it anyway. In the past, I spent *hours* trying to improve my recommendations via that method. Didn’t improve them in the least.

        • I have the same problem. Even if I click on Not Interested, or delete the book from my browsing history, I get other books by the same author as a recommendation.

          I find there’s just no variety in the recommendations.

          I haven’t had any luck browsing categories either, because the first pages tend to be swamped by many books by the same few authors. (I never got past, say, page 3, so I don’t know about the rest.) Or the books have nothing whatsoever to do with the category, like interior design books in a gardening subcategory.

          I do buy from Amazon, but I don’t use it to find things to read. And I wish they’d stop pushing “bestselling” books/music/whatever at me.

  2. I agree that as a shopper, I’m often likely to find some books by physically browsing that I might not otherwise find by electronic means alone. But as Patricia says, the bookstore’s not going to be happy if I then buy a Kindle copy from Amazon, which is definitely what I’d do. Well, unless it’s an Amazon bookstore. And I plan to pay a visit to the one here in Chicago as soon as it opens.

  3. “‘The Content Trap’ Is the Must-Read Book of the Year”

    And was it last year that 50 Shades was the ‘must read’ book? Never mind all those HP books.

    And yup, Amazon has cut down on all the impulse buying as your eyes don’t notice all the random junk you’d have to pass in the store getting to what you came for and the checkout. (Hmm, maybe on screens large enough for it they could have random stuff pop up around the sides/corners — like those nasty annoying ads some sites use — which I block out of habit …)

    • Well they do that already, for example in the Amazon music player (which I use very often and do like), the sidebar is full of music that has nothing whatsoever to do with whatever I’d ever bought from them. And if I click Not Interested, it merely offers another song from the same album! (And I have ad blockers etc., but this is internal on the site, so there’s no help for it that I know of.)

  4. “this one never hit my radar until I walked through that store”

    Funnily enough, I’ve found some amazing books simply by browsing through Amazon.

    I guess the lesson is: if you don’t browse, you don’t discover.

  5. The author has a point, but I’m still too busy tackling my to-read pile. I don’t want to discover anything new. Even if my lifespan doubles, I won’t finish everything on my list.

    But have I stumbled upon books that I thought my in-laws would like and then bought those? Yes. A sale is a sale.

  6. Oddly, I bought the ebook version of The Content Trap several weeks ago. It has some useful insights, although it reminded me of PG’s comment that most business books have only one idea and as soon as you get that idea, you can quit reading.

    I could have sworn I bought the book because I read something about it here in TPV, but I can’t recall what. Most of my book purchases come from digital word-of-mouth: a reference in TPV or one of the other blogs I read. I am also lucky to know several acquisitions librarians who are amazing sources of book recommendations. But Amazon and other machine generated recommendations, not so much.

    Way back in the 80s, I designed and coded a system to prompt store clerks to suggest additional purchases at point-of-sale terminals. My beta site was a chain of pet stores.

    The system was crude. The store manager would enter groups of products that frequently sold together: cat food, cat litter, and catnip, for example. If any element of the group showed on the ticket, the clerk was prompted to suggest the other elements. By tuning the groups, the manager could prompt his clerks to push slow moving brands and so on. I may have had a weighting factor, I can’t remember anymore. The goal was to turn so-so clerks into super-clerks.

    The system worked well for good managers who knew their stores, lousy for the bad ones. I tried to eliminate the manager input by generating groups from purchase histories, but the storage and compute capacity just was not available. Amazon has storage, compute, and sophistication which I could not even imagine 30 years ago, but it seems as if they don’t do much better than my crude system, although I could be fooling myself. I like to do that.

    But I came away with an observation. The system predicted future behavior based on past behavior. Backward looking predictions work better in stable environments. When I look at the books on my shelves and on my Kindle, I can’t say my book buying habits are stable, and I would not be the least surprised if I am not alone in this.

    • I get useless recommendations from Amazon, but I know I use their storefront in a way they don’t support. I often research what’s available on a topic, or from a particular author. Then I get lots of recommendations based on those searches. Sorry, Amazon, that project is over, and I wasn’t interested in buying the products listed in any event.

      Author X, for example, bores me to tears. I was just looking to see what his release schedule over the years has been and what the current availability for his various titles from different sources is.

      On the other hand, when I go into my large local bookstore and browse the shelves in person, I almost never find anything I want as my interests don’t generally run towards what everyone is reading this week. I’m weird. Both bookstore gnomes and online robots fail to satisfy me. I rely on people who know how I’m weird.

      • We are similar. I use Amazon for research also. About the only use I have for physical bookstores these days is for examining the way they position books on the shelves. I ask the clerks where they would shelve a book like a project I am contemplating, then look at what is shelved nearby. It is one way to triangulate on the market for a new project. As bookstores continue to decline, the method becomes less telling.

      • Gordon, seriously, that’s the opening line to a cool novel to be written by you… “….bookstore gnomes and online robots fail to satisfy me. I rely on people who know how I’m weird.”

  7. While I loved to go into bookstores, I find it quite frustrating nowadays : they don’t sell Ebooks, their seletion doesn’t correspond to what I like to read (indie SF&F mainly) at prices I like to buy (< $5) …

    So I almost stopped getting into bookstores, and only rarely buy books for myself. For my daughter, or as gift, I still go shopping there, but that's all.

  8. A recent mountain climbing expedition helped me realize that even the best algorithms and email campaigns can’t replace in-person product discovery. After a 20 hour flight and a 6 hour wait in Customs, I only just caught up with my fellow expedition members as they were about to leave for the mountain. After 36 sleepless hours I set off on the walking trek through some of the most remote regions on the face of this earth. When we finally arrived at the little village at the foot of the mountain we were exhausted, muddy and tired from our trek through almost continuous rain and snow. I won’t bore you with the details but when I finally arrived, alone, at the summit a week later, cold and numb and mourning my lost companions, I came across a small cave. Imagine my surprise on entering to find a small natural shelf. On that shelf, facing outward, was a book. It was entitled “THE MORE PLACES YOU LOOK THE MORE YOU WILL FIND”. I couldn’t resist picking it up. On the back jacket was a blurb.

    “Discovery online is so much better than the old days of limited selection in physical stores. Sadly, this has lead to many people completely forgetting the old ways and doing everything online. But online discovery is not absolutely perfect. You can still occasionally find something you like in the old ways, or simply by getting away from your screen and out into the world.”

    Sounded interesting. I almost took it with me. But I would have no chance to read on the perilous descent and the lonely and miserable trek to follow. So I made a note to buy it on Amazon on my return. I’m planning a cave diving expedition and can’t wait to see what book I might discover in the depths of the dark river in the bowels of the earth.

  9. The last time I visited a physical bookstore was because a local (New Zealand) author had a book out from one of the New York publishers, and I wanted my local indie bookstore to know about it, because it wasn’t on their shelf of local books. Asking them to order it for me seemed the best way of making the point.

  10. “The Content Trap’ Is the Must-Read Book of the Year”

    OK. First, I immediately have a problem with “must” read/do/see/whatever verbiage due to my defective, suspicious, idiosyncratic personality. I automatically resist such entreaties in a very hostile manner.

    Second, it’s been my experience that “must” marketing blather is complete ca-ca.


  11. Amazon is actually really great at recommending me things to read. Perhaps I’m just more predictable that other people. Or my interests are more narrow. It certainly works for people like me anyway.

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